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I have read many novels based on the concept of magic in London town, and it is a sub-genre I usually enjoy. So I was looking forward to being convinced all over again that magic may well exist, and where better to believe magic could exist than in London.
This book didn’t deliver this for me. I found the concept of The Oversight, which as well as being the title, is the group of people that look after the magic of London and keep the bad magic-users in check, to be too lightly drawn. It was not until Lucy went through the mirror that I began to engage with a character in more than an observatory way.
The use of magic in London is waning, but in this book it is essential that there remains a final hand – 5 people – that use magic, to help to keep the ‘Discriminator’ and the ‘Wildfire’ in control. If one of the fingers is destroyed, London will fall due to the power of these sigils. How they are controlled is not fully explained – only that the last time they weren’t controlled, the Great Fire of London occurred.
I believe that this is the first book in a trilogy, and if this is the case, I hope that the second book does a better job of drawing people into a world that seems like it might be worth getting to know. Lucy Fletcher, the character that takes an unexpected journey, is a promising voice in the novel, and somebody I would like to hear more from. After falling through a magic object, Lucy finds herself in a carnival setting, with an excellent set of characters, both good and bad. She needs to figure out who to trust, and fast – to survive. The other characters were intriguing for the most part, but I found them hard to care for, as I didn’t know enough background.
From reading the biography in the back, Charlie Fletcher has previously written the Stoneheart trilogy, and his standalone book Far Rockaway, was in the longlist for the Carnegie Medal this year. I am intrigued enough to try out something else of his.
If you are intrigued by the idea of magic in London, old or new, I suggest reading some Ben Aaronovich for a bit of light escapism (modern London with an ‘extraordinary’ police department), some China Mieville for a bit of brilliant magical horror (Un Lun Dun or Perdido Street Station), or of course Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens. Or anything at all by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld series – Ankh-Morepork is eerily similar to London, most would agree.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
by Charlie Fletcher
Published by Orbit